Sunday, May 10, 2009

The end of a campaign... time to vote

The countdown for the general elections in Tamil Nadu has begun. Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi have visited. A Narendra Modi visit could have gladdened the hearts of some, judging by the response he is drawing from several parts of India, but that visit hasn’t happened. Modi has already risen as the star and probably the BJP might now be regretting not having showcased him as its prime ministerial candidate. When an Express columnist told Modi that he could be Prime Minister in 2014, he replied that he lived for the day and five years ahead was too far even to think. A sign of some frustration, perhaps.

In any case, in the midst of all the brouhaha about the elections, how many people are really going to vote? Pamphlets are being distributed in neighbourhoods, speeches are being made and even telephone calls are being received, exhorting people to come out and vote on polling day. I was surprised to receive calls from M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa. For a moment I was taken aback but then I realised that they were recorded voices. But nevertheless, a call was a call. The DMDK candidate cent me an email, asking me to vote for the party. There have been house visits by representatives of various political parties as well. All well and good, but the question remains: how many will come out and vote?

The Mumbai example is shocking – only 41% of eligible voters exercised their franchise this time. Mumbai where the terrorist attacks took place, a city known for its resilience and the civic consciousness of its citizens. So, what happened? 41%? Which means the majority did not bother to vote. So, why should we pass comments on our leaders if we don’t even bother to come out and choose who should represent us? We forfeit our right to complain then, don’t we?

And for all that, there is a feeling that these elections are not going to result in a sizeable win for any one party. Today was when Nitish Kmar shared the stage with Narendra Modi, Rajnath Singh and Susham Swaraj in Chandigarh. The TRS or the Telengana Rashtra Samithi was also seen today cozying up to the BJP. When Sonia Gandhi arrived today in Chennai to share the stage with the DMK patriarch and TN chief minister, she spoke about a loyal partnership but was careful not to utter a single word about the AIADMK party or its leader. It’s all politics after all. You can switch sides when you want to, when you feel the time is right.

It’s been a long-drawn campaign, in the middle of summer in India’s hinterland. Sometimes when you think of it you wonder how on earth our leaders manage to do so much of travelling and still look fresh and clean. Almost like actors in a movie. Well, on the real world stage, our leaders are actors too, aren’t they?

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